I started work at Bishop Cotton School (BCS), Shimla in January 2020, my first position outside of the UK.  Brought up in London, I studied at Oxford University and began my career as a teacher of History at one of the best Government schools in England, the Judd School, before moving to Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith (alma mater of actor Hugh Grant).  At Latymer, I worked with an outstanding faculty, where I learned my craft from inspirational and dedicated professionals and began to see what I was doing was a vocation rather than a job.  I also learned the value of taking extra-curricular activities - coaching sports and taking outdoor education trips to wilderness areas. Later I took on my first middle management role, becoming a Head of Year, which encouraged me to apply for more senior roles and I became Head of Sixth Form at Reigate Grammar School where Sir Keir Starmer MP had been a pupil.  I managed two hundred pupils, most of whom were applying to premier universities and learned a great deal about international college application processes.  As Deputy Head of Brentwood School, one of the UK’s largest independent schools, I oversaw the pastoral care of over 1500 pupils (day and boarding) as well as staff training.  In such a large community I was inevitably confronted by some very difficult pastoral issues, but this was a rewarding experience. 

My first headship was at Shebbear College, a day and boarding school in rural South West England.  In this beautiful, but remote area, pupil and staff recruitment was always a challenge, but the school had a strong community and was part of a large collaborative education group (MIST) with schools across the UK.  During that time, we built two superb buildings – a music block and a Sixth Form centre and we experimented with various staffing models that involved providing teacher training in-house to some outstanding graduates as well as the judicious part-time use of superannuated staff who still had much to offer – both initiatives helped provide the best possible experience for the students.  It meant that by the end of 2019, I had seen most things and then came to India!

Bishop Cotton School, Shimla is now very much a premier 21st-century Indian school, but it was originally designed, over 160 years ago, for British pupils and still incorporates many of the aspects of that system – distinct boarding houses, daily organised games, plenty of extra-curricular activities and a desire to give the older boys significant leadership experience as prefects. The latter does throw up some challenges because India is relatively more conservative and much more hierarchical than the UK and this can manifest itself in Indian boarding schools with entitlement and mediocrity.  However, so long as this is challenged consistently, the very best aspects of seniority shine through and result in a disciplined community which is focused on achievement.

BCS, like the rest of the world, was not ready for the pandemic.  There was hardly any IT infrastructure and we had to create a rudimentary online learning platform.  We determinedly re-opened the boarding houses in 2021 with a ‘bubble system’ aimed at keeping batch integrity and preventing major disruption should we have covid outbreaks.  BCS emerged from lockdown with a proper school network (including a smart board in every class) and central heating.  The latter might seem unremarkable, but it means that going forward the school does not need to be a slave to the seasons and we can plan an academic calendar driven by learning needs, not meteorological pragmatism.

We want to make BCS a world-class school – a school that students from any other educational system would be comfortable attending.  This has necessarily involved re-evaluating the quality of our pastoral care and we now have two full-time psychologists on the staff to support the community.  We are keen to learn from good practice elsewhere.  We start from an excellent base – Indian boarding students are outstanding because Indian culture prizes education as transformative.  It is fundamental that every BCS boy (not just the most able) should be exposed to a range of experiences that will help them grow.  We seek accreditation from organisations that promote high educational standards (we recently began to offer Cambridge International IGCSEs in addition to ICSE) and we determinedly champion the character development that BCS has always been known for. We are upgrading all of our teaching and sporting facilities – this includes installing Shimla’s only Astroturf which will allow us to help the resurgence of Indian hockey.  We have introduced international pupil exchanges and begun to offer a range of tours and treks around the world – last year we played Eton in the UK at cricket for the first time.  In 2023, we took every boy on a safari in one of India’s national parks.  Our calendar for 2024 is exhausting just to look at, but we can’t wait to get started.


Bishop Cotton School, Shimla is a boys' residential school (Class 4 up) located in the heart of the Shimla Hills founded in 1859. As an ICSE/IGCSE Cambridge International accredited school, we are strengthened by a proud history that goes back 165 years, yet our Cottonians have their eyes firmly set on a global legacy for the 21st century. Our quality meets par excellence and as a recognition of it, we were awarded Rank 1 for 'Quality in Education' in Himachal Pradesh under the ICSE Category in The North School Merit Awards and also received the Parents' Choice Awards from Education Today.